Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


needed element of grace and expansiveness into the training of
young English gentlemen, and to suggest the possibility of forms
of education more in touch with the actualities of social life than
the grammar schools. Much more important for the future of
education was the introduction of Italian science in the train of
the chivalric culture, and its absorption by Francis Bacon into a
philosophy of life which made the mundane concerns of mankind
its central interest and sought to harness science in the service
of humanity. The Baconian philosophy, it is true, was a one-
sided development of Italian thought, but no more so than the
literary humanism by which it had come to be represented in the
schools. Its great merit was that by its very one-sidedness it
challenged the other-worldliness which after centuries of domina-
tion had received a new lease of power in European education
from the alliance of humanism and religion, and that once more it
brought into effective influence the sense of secular values which
had been one of the most notable elements of the Graeco-Roman
culture restored by the Renaissance.


It was a happy circumstance that just as the great days of the
Italian Renaissance were drawing to a close there should appear
a book, representative in the highest degree, which gave, so far
as any book could, " an abstract or epitome of the chief moral
and social ideas of the age." This was The Book of the Courtier,
written about 1516, and issued to the world in 1528, a year after
the Sack of Rome, which marked the end of the glories of the
Italian cities.

Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529), the author of this work,
does not perhaps rank among the greatest men of his time, but
there was assuredly none better fitted, either by experience or by
personal ideals, to depict the perfect courtier. In his youth he
had acquired a scholarly knowledge of Latin and Greek, and
formed an extensive, if not a minute, acquaintance with archaeology
and the fine arts. Thus equipped, he entered on a career of arms
and diplomacy in the court of his kinsman, the Marquis of Mantua,
at the age of twenty-one. Five years later he transferred himself
to the service of the Duke of Urbino, and in the court Qf